August 2nd & 3rd in the Speyside region of Scotland, close to Inverness and Elgin.
Summermoot is an opportunity for TS members (& others) to join together and visit an area: whether for walking or browsing bookshops.
Speyside is famous for its malt whisky. It also has dolphins, castles and walks, as well as the Cairngorm Mountains, amongst many other attractions. Cawdor Castle of Macbeth fame is just down the road, along with Culloden Moor, the site of the end of the failed 1745 Jacobite rising.
We are trying to arrange a visit to Darnaway Castle, which is owned and lived in by the Earl of Moray. In the castle is Randalf's Hall, an impressive room with pictures of many of the Stuarts. The castle is not normally open to the public and this would be a private visit.
Also nearby is Lochindorb, the shell of a 14th-centuary castle on an island in the loch where Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, had his stronghold and was also imprisoned; he raised Elgin Cathedral, the ruins of which can still be seen. There is also Randalf's Leap, a local walk along the edge of the River Findhorn, where the river runs through a deep, spectacular sandstone chasm. There are fishermen's steps down to the river. Another castle is Brodie Castle, which dates from 1567.
For shopping there is Brodie Country fair. Alternatively, there are a variety of woodland walks, where it may be possible to see the local wildlife: hares, ospreys, red squirrels, herons and roe deer. For the more adventurous and a little further a-field, there are the Cairngorms to explore: though for those less inclined to walk or climb to the top there are Chair Lifts - however, warm clothing is recommended regardless of the method used to get to the top.
These pictures were taken at the end of May 2003 when we were lucky enough to be able to visit Patricia Robertson, this year's Summermoot Organiser.
River Findhorn as it flows through Darnaway Forest
The first two are of River Findhorn a few hundred yards up-stream from Randalf's Leap where it flows through Darnaway Forest, close to Conicavel, a village on the Darnaway Estate.
The Leap is actually a little bit mis-named; it wasn't Randalf who made the leap, it was his two protagonists, one of whom he had earlier banned from his land and who then proceeded to stir up trouble. Things came to a head with a small battle; however things didn't go their way and they attempted to escape, but ended up having to leap the river to do so.
"The Forbidden Pool"
When we were there taking these photographs this spot, at the foot of one of the fishermen's steps along River Findhorn, was a dead-ringer for the forbidden pool at Henneth Annûn. One can almost see Gollum sitting on the rock in the foreground with a fish in one hand ...
The ruins of Lochindorb Castle on the island in Lochindorb Loch
A few miles south, and only about ten minutes or so by car, is Lochindorb; completely different scenery to Darnaway: open moorland, heather. The roads through the moorland are marked by snow poles and they can be closed by snow gates. The transition from forest to moorland is quite sudden.
Get in the right spot and you can see for miles, and miles, and miles. Consequently the roads can be quite fast, though they are sufficiently narrow (at least in places) to require a certain amount of caution when passing another vehicle. They are also twisty, with many gradients.
The Loch itself is an excellent venue for windsurfing; there are many places to pull off the road that runs along the side of it from where to either go windsurfing or to watch those who are. However, the only way to reach the castle on the island is by boat; though I suspect that it would also be possible to windsurf to it.
Attending Summermoot is free; however, you will need to arrange your own accommodation and food.
For accommodation there are local B&Bs. These can be found on the Highlands of Scotland tourism board web site: http://www.host.co.uk/inverness/ or by phone: 0845 22 55 121 (+44 1506 832 121 outside the UK). Alternatively, there is free camping available. If there is sufficient interest the local village hall could be made available.
Please register your interest in Summermoot by emailing: summermoot AT tolkiensociety DOT org.
Some accommodation information for establishments close to Darnaway. Please be aware that the Tolkien Society is not responsible for these establishments, nor is the Society connected with them in any way. The Society has not vetted them and so are unable to verify their suitability.
The Old Kirk, Dyke By Forres, Morayshire. IV36 2TL
oldkirk AT gms DOT net
Tel: 01309 641 414
Fax: 01309 641 057
There are many other B&Bs in the area.
Contact the Aberdeen & Grampian Tourist Board: www.aberdeen-grampian.com.
The Forres Tourist Information Centre: 116 High Street, Forres.
Tel: 01309 672 938